tv John Brennan on Drones CSPAN January 13, 2013 4:30pm-6:00pm EST
selfless and are working individuals in the country. at great personal risk and sacrifice, they have made caen -- countless contributions to the safety and security of all americans. most time, the successes will never be known outside the hall all of langley. the agency -- leading the agency i have served would be the greatest responsibility of my professional life. mr. president, i want to thank you for your confidence in me, but even more for your confidence and comments in support to the cia and those who serve in the intelligence community. they need and deserve the support of all their fellow americans, especially at a time of such tremendous national security challenges. if confirmed as director, i would make my mission to confirm
the cia has the tools it needs to keep our nation safe and that its work always reflects the liberties, the freedoms, and values we hold so dear. i am especially proud to stand here today with such patriots as leon panetta. it was a tremendous honor to serve with leon over the past four years and i look forward to the opportunity and privilege to work with czech cable. i am especially proud and touch to be built to stand here today with my close friend and colleague who epitomizes what it means to be an intelligence professional. his leadership at the cia as well as his 32-year career has been nothing short of exemplary. i look forward to working with you in the weeks, and, in years ahead. >> -- we also look forward to working with congress.
bringing the legislative branches of this work to that team. it is critically important there be a full and open discourse on intelligence matters with the appropriate representatives of the american people. although i consider myself the the republican or democrat, i very much look forward to working closely with those on both sides of the aisle. finally and most importantly, to my wife cathy, to my children, to my parents in new jersey, a shout out, my brother and sister and my jersey roots, i could not be where i am without my -- without their love, patience and support. there is no way to repay them except to say i'm going to need
a little bit longer. i'm deeply grateful for this opportunity. it will be bittersweet to leave my colleagues and friends here at the white house and national security staff who have come to work with and respect so deeply over the last four years. if confirmed by the senate, i will consider it to be honor of my life to serve as the director of the central intelligence agency. >> that was john brennan from a few days before the 10th anniversary of the september 11 attacks. talks about u.s. efforts to fight terrorist financing. [applause] >> thank you for those kind words and thank you for inviting me to this distinguished meeting here today, which i am honored and privileged to be a part of. i know my boss called david
away. i think his role and value in the counter-terrorism effort in the government are evident to all of those who work with him. i want to thank the office of terrorism and counterinsurgency to stop -- you are on the front lines of the fight for national security and our nation is much safer because of your service. i want to thank secretary tim geithner for hosting in sponsoring this today. it is pleasing to see so many friends and colleagues. i see the color is back in his cheeks and he looks much younger. his clothes are a step up from what he had in government work. it does show there is life after government service. good to see you again.
in three days, we will mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. we have to take a look at the hard work we have done to disrupt the finances of terrorist networks. what i would like to do is summarize the threats we face in the broader strategic environment in which our counter-terrorism efforts take place. the death of osama bin laden marked a milestone in our efforts to defeat al qaeda. al qaeda's ranks have been decimated. more key leaders have been eliminated in rapid succession at any time since 9/11. virtually every major a al qaeda affiliate has lost its key leader or operational commander. more than half of their top leadership has been eliminated. al qaeda is on the ropes and continues to get pummeled. however, his death and the capture of many other al qaeda leaders and operatives do not mark the end of al qaeda or its
continued plotting against the united states and other countries. the preeminent security threat to the ad states remains al qaeda and its adherents. since september 11, the counter- terrorism effort has been aimed at preventing the counter terror -- the counter efforts of al qaeda on the homeland. al qaeda continues to edify operatives overseas and develop new methods overseas to attack us at home. affiliated movements have taken us beyond the core leadership in afghanistan and pakistan, including the middle east, and east africa, central asia, and southeast asia. although each group is unique, all aspire to advance al qaeda's agenda by stabilizing the companies in which they operate and attacking the u.s. and plotting to strike it u.s. homeland.
in south asia, al qaeda continues to pose a threat from its base of operation in pakistan's tribal areas. in order to use that to carry a attacks against a homeland as well as our interests and those of our allies and partners in pakistan, afghanistan, india, and europe. the united states faces to counter terrorism charges -- a direct threat posed by al qaeda in the arabian peninsula and the individuals and charities that flow from the region to al qaeda and its affiliates from world. on this point particularly, i want to emphasize severing the pipeline is a major part of what we're doing in its administration. al qaeda has shifted its activities to the relative safe haven of northern mali where it is training fighters and other
allied organizations. their tactic of kidnapping for ransom not only in danger's western tourists but supplies the group with an influx of cash to underwrite its activities. in addition to carrying out specific attacks, al qaeda seeks to inspire broader context against the united states and the allies and partners. al qaeda has had some success in rallying individuals and other groups to its cause. in addition to plot's directed and planned from overseas, al qaeda's adherents, individuals inspired by al qaeda but not directly connected to it, have a gauge in terrorism in the homeland as we saw so tragically at fort hood. beyond al qaeda, others continue to threaten the national interest. they seek to undermine the security of allied and partnered governments. traffic in narcotics and engage in other activities.
how much, which ignores the world demands to renounce violence receives vast support from the government of iran and has an extensive network of donors and non-governmental organizations in the gulf states and europe that provide support. hezbollah also receives support from iran and supplement its budget through drug and criminal activities as well as treatment is from expatriate sympathizers, non-governmental organizations and a variety of commercial enterprises. this financial backing helps fund operations, security and weapons systems, allowing the organization to increase its political influence in lebanon. it is within this environment we developed our counter-terrorism network. our national security strategy is clear. the goal is to disrupt, dismantle, and the al qaeda and its allies.
in june, we released the u.s. counterterrorism strategy. this strategy is just one part of president obama's larger national security strategy. our counterterrorism policies to not define our foreign policy. rather, their violin reenforcing elements of our broader national security interest. it is essential to keeping americans secure. one of the key objectives of our strategy is to deprive -- the private terrace of their enabling means, particularly their finances. our strategy sets out to expand and enhance efforts to block the flow of financial resources to and among terrorist groups and to disrupt terrorist facilitation and support activities, imposing sanctions or pursuing prosecution to enforce a violation and dissuade others. our efforts include a wide range
of activities to provide -- collectively, are activities seek to use all elements of national power to sever terrorist funding. disrupt the terrorists abilities to raise and move funds and material support. prevent terrorist support of financial systems and the charitable sector. improved cooperation between multilateral institutions and improve our insight into terrorist finances and activities. in pursuit of these objectives, we've made important progress in combating terrorism finances. progress has spanned two administrations that have been in place since 9/11. since 2001, the knighted states and its partners have put relentless pressure on al qaeda disrupting terrorist plots, reducing financial support available to the group and
inflicting significant leadership losses. no doubt, we are making it harder for al qaeda to find and deploy experienced operatives around the world and making it harder for the group to raise, move, and use money, all of which makes this a much more difficult and much more time- consuming to carry out terrorist attacks. the arabian peninsula remains the most important source of financial support for al qaeda and its affiliates worldwide. we look to our partners in the region to take the lead with u.s. support and assistance. important progress has been made by some of our golf partners such as saudi arabia, the united error -- yet it arab emirates and for that, we owe a debt of gratitude for those who chartered that pass over the past decade. unfortunately, not all countries have made the same commitment to prioritizing terrorism finance
and as a consequence, they remain permissive operating environments. we seek stronger engagement with them on other terrorist groups which are fund raising in these gulf nations. he we will continue to push for enhanced action by these governments and closer bilateral cooperation with the united states. reacting to al qaeda's core financial difficulties, its affiliates in east africa and on the arabian peninsula have come to rely less on support from the al qaeda network as a plan and mount terrorist attacks. while the al qaeda core provides strategic guidance, some affiliate's have turned to crime to generate funding. particularly kidnapping for ransom, control territory, extortion, and at times, drug- trafficking. the terrorist use of kidnapping reflects the broader concern
about the crime nexus. as they come under more pressure, they will turn increasingly to crime and criminal networks to find and facilitate their operations. this is an issue the president feels strongly about -- the payment of ransom by other countries and individual organizations that continue to fuel the forces of terrorism. this is something the president has raised on numerous occasions with visiting dignitaries. ransom payments to terrorist organizations only make them more of a threat. indexes of crime, terror, the corruption is worrisome for its capacity to generate new and substantial sources of funding that can fuel these operations against the united states and our partners. the taliban, for example, continues to have sufficient resources to sustain its recruiting and training infrastructure and to conduct attacks on afghan civilians, soldiers and police, as well as
against the united states. on the multilateral front, we have worked with the united nations to halt funding to terrorist networks through the sanctions regime established by the un security council resolution. al qaeda's weakened financial state is traceable in part to designations of al qaeda financiers. during the past few years, they 1267 regime came under attack because of increased judicial scrutiny, particularly in europe, with critics arguing it does not provide adequate due process protections for those so designated. in the last year, we have worked diligently with partners on the security council to seek a solution to this problem. these negotiations culminated with the passage in june of security council resolutions 1988 and 1989 which strengthen the mandate on one person to respond to criticism about the
regime's fairness and transparency. going forward, we hope to see the european union or individual european governments established designation mechanisms able to withstand european courts due process concerns. many terrorist networks, including al qaeda, a loss, and hezbollah have established a legitimate charities that have exploited legitimate ones. the united states has taken action against terrorist entities, facilitators, donors, and charities through the treasury executive order. that freezes designee assets under u.s. trust diction and prevents u.s. persons from doing business with them. here i want to be very clear. while government actions with respect to muslim charities have been in frequent, they nonetheless have had an unintended chilling effect on well intentioned donor activity.
president obama acknowledged this in his speech in cairo and we're working with muslim americans to increase awareness of existing policy and remove unnecessary hurdles to legitimate and important charitable giving. finally, i would note our efforts to combat terrorist financing are shaped by strategic events. in the last several months, we have witnessed an extraordinary political change sweep across the middle east and north africa. it is the most profound change in arab history and the modern world. al qaeda and its ilk have been left in the sidelines watching history pass them by. president obama has placed be guided states and the right side of history, putting our support to the political and economic reforms and universal human rights people in that region are demanding. seismic events like those under way in the middle east come with both opportunities and risks.
so do our counter-terrorism efforts. we have to remain vigilant that in ensuing transitions to not create new opportunities for terrorist financiers. indeed, we must make sure we are able to take advantage of these new opportunities to continue our efforts against those financiers and the terrorists a support. in closing, i would like to say a brief word about the evolution of the terrorism finance committee. what started as an analytic niche a decade ago has evolved into a full-blown community of financial intelligence experts today and his work directly supports the president's national-security agenda. these dedicated experts and public servants, many of whom are here today, have proven the power financial intelligence. this strand of intelligence has given us insights and understanding of terrorist networks as never before. it has helped expose the group's
inner workings, plants, intentions, and operational capacity. i think there is no greater testament to the importance of this financial intelligence than the present here this morning of the director of national intelligence, jim clapper. the department of terrorism and operational financial intelligence target the top threats facing our nation, including terrorism, proliferation, drug-trafficking, rogue regimes, and transnational organized crime. still, a decade after september 11, the financial community continues to thrive. earlier this year, there was a new position established headed by lesley ireland who is here this morning, will coordinate across the agencies all security threats including transnational criminal.
i want to emphasize our progress over the last decade is the result of many people spanning many years, working hard, day in and day out. they include our distinguished guests here today, stuart levy, the author of the united states strategy on terrorism finance. they include a multitude of experts and institutions who had a novel idea of disrupting terrorist finances. it's an idea that has in all -- has evolved into one of the most effective instrument we have in pursuing terrorists and preventing attacks. it is a tool president obama and the administration relies on every day in our efforts to dismantle and feet al qaeda to prevent terrorism attacks. it is a tool we will continue to strengthen as we do everything in our power to keep the american people say. -- the american people safe.
i would like to think tim geithner and everyone here being here to participate in this very important event and on behalf of president obama, i want to say thank you to all those dedicated treasury and other professionals who have truly made this country a much safer place. thank you. [applause] >> john brennan also talks about the use of drone strikes and counter-terrorism strategies since the debt of osama bin laden. from april of last year, this is just over one hour. >> i very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss president obama's counterterrorism strategy.
then senator obama discussed how he would bring the war in iraq to an end and focus on the war that has to be one, the war against al qaeda, particularly in the troubled region of afghanistan and pakistan. he said we would carry on this fight while upholding the law and our values and we would work with our allies and partners wherever possible. he also made it clear we would not hesitate to use military force against terrorists who don't pose a direct threat to america. he said he had intelligence about terrorists, even as in pakistan, he would act to protect the american people. it is especially fitting we have this discussion today. one year ago, president tibullus facing the scenario he discussed at the woodrow wilson center five years ago. he did not hesitate to act.
soon thereafter, are special operations forces were moving toward the compound in pakistan where we believed the osama bin laden might be hiding. at the end of the day, president obama could confirm justice had been delivered to those responsible for the attacks on september 11, 2001. the-phyllis sullivan law and was armas strategic blow yet. credit for that success belongs to the courageous forces that carries out -- carried out that mission at extraordinary threat to their lives. they pieced together clues over the years that led to his hideout and to president obama, who gave the order to go in. one year later, it is appropriate to assess where we stand in this fight. we said that it would not mark the end of al qaeda nor our resolve to destroy it. along with allies and partners, we have been unrelenting. when we assess that al qaeda of
2012, it is fair to say the united states is more secure and the american people are safer. here is why. in pakistan, al qaeda's leadership ranks of continue to suffer heavy losses. this includes one of at al qaeda's top operational planners killed one month after osama bin laden. it includes the man who was killed after succeeding al qaeda's debbie lee leader. and the man who planned attacks against the united states until his capture by pakistan's forces. with its commanders the loss of quickly, al qaeda has had trouble replacing them. this one of the making closing is we have been able to draw from documents seized at osama bin laden's compound. some of them will be published on line for the first time this week. for example, a some of the law
and worried about "the rise of local leaders who are not as experienced and this would lead to a repeat of mistakes." al qaeda leaders continue to struggle to communicate with subordinates and affiliates. under intense pressure in the tribal regions of pakistan, they have fewer places to train and groom the new generation of operatives. they are struggling to attract recruits. morale is low and some members are giving up and returning home, no doubt aware this is a fight they will never win. al qaeda is losing badly and osama bin laden at time of his death. in documents we sees, he confessed to disaster after disaster and urged leaders to flee the tribal regions and go places away from aircraft photography and bombardment. for all of these reasons, it is harder than ever for the al qaeda core in pakistan to plan and execute large scale, potentially catastrophic attacks
against the homeland. today, it's increasingly clear that compared to 911 -- compared to 9/11, the al qaeda 0 leadership is a shadow of its former self. with continued pressure, they are on the path to destruction. for the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al qaeda core is simply no longer relevant. nevertheless, the dangerous threat of al qaeda has not disappeared. as the core falters, it looks to affiliate's and adherence to carry on its murderous cause. yet these affiliate's continue to lose key commanders and capabilities as well. in somalia, it is worrying to witness al qaeda's merger with ranks including foreign fighters, some have u.s. passports. at the same time, the focus of launching regional tax, and ultimately, this is a merger
between two organizations in decline. in yemen, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula continues to feel the effects of the death last year of its leader of external operations who was response will for planning and directing terrorist attacks against the united states. nevertheless, they continue to be al qaeda's most active affiliate's and continue to seek the opportunity to strike our homeland. we therefore continue to support the government of yemen its efforts against al qaeda which is being forced to fight against the territory it needs to plan a tax beyond yemen. in north and west africa, another al qaeda affiliate continue its efforts to destabilize governments and engaging kidnapping of western citizens for rents and activities designed to fund its terrorist agenda. in nigeria, we are monitoring closely the emergence of a group
that appears to be aligning itself with al qaeda's violent agenda as increasingly looking to attack western interests in nigeria in addition to nigerian government targets. more broadly, al qaeda's killing of innocents, mostly muslim men, women and children, has badly tarnished its image and appeal in the eyes of muslims around the world. >> will you speak out about -- what about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with our drone strikes in pakistan, in yemen, and somalia. i speak out on behalf of those innocent victims. they deserve an apology from you, mr. brennan. how many people are you willing to sacrifice? why are you lying to the american people and not saying how many innocents have been killed? >> thank you, for expressing your views. there'll be time for questions and answers after the presentation. >> in pakistan who was killed
because he wanted to document the drone of strikes. i speak out on behalf of a 16- year-old born in denver, killed in yemen because his father -- i speak out on behalf of the constitution, on behalf of the rule of law, i love of the rule of law. i love my country. you are making a mistake by killing so many innocent people. shame on you. >> thank you. more broadly, al qaeda's killing of innocents is losing its appeal. even the osama bin laden and his lieutenants knew this. his propagandist admitted that it is a group that does not hesitate to take money by false
it, spilling the blood of scores of people. osama bin laden agreed that a large portion of muslims around the world have lost their trust in al qaeda. so damaged is their image that osama bin laden even considered changing its name. one of the reasons -- as he set himself -- u.s. officials have stopped using the phrase simply calling them out light in -- al qaeda --that is because al qaeda does not belong to muslim. it is anticipates of the peace of islam. despite the great august we have made against al qaeda, it would be a mistake to believe this mistake has passed. al qaeda and its associates still have the intent to attack the united states. we have seen loan individuals, including citizens, often inspired by their ideology.
they seek to do us harm. still, the damage that has been done in pakistan combined with how al qaeda has alienated its self from so much of the world allows us to look forward. indeed, the decade before 9/11 was the time of al qaeda's rise, the time after 9/11 was a time of its decline. this decade will be the one that sees its demise. this progress is no accident. it is the direct result of an intense effort made over a decade, across two administrations, across the u.s. government, and in concert with allies and partners. this includes the dr. terrorism strategy eating directed by -- this includes the counterterrorism strategy being directed by president obama. in this fight, we are harnessing every american power -- intelligence, military,
economic, financial, homeland security, and the power of our values. that includes our commitment to the rule of law. that is why in his first days of office, president obama and the use of enhanced interrogation uses, which is not needed to keep our country safe. a few months after taking office, the president traveled to the national archives am aware he discussed how national security to card a delicate balance to train secrecy and transparency. he pledged to share as much information as possible with the american people so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable. he has consistently asked of those on national security team to be as open and candid as possible as well. earlier this year, attorney
general holder discussed how our efforts are rooted in our strength adherence to the law, including the legal authorities that allow us to pursue members of al qaeda, including u.s. citizens, and using technologically advanced weapons. in addition, jake johnson at the department of defense had addressed the legal basis for our military efforts against al qaeda. the general counsel for the cia has discussed how the agency operates under the u.s. law. there was a lecture given two years ago. they noted that u.s. practices, including legal -- comply with all law, including the laws of war. given these efforts, adventure to say that the u.s. government has never been so open regarding
its counterterrorism. there seems to be public and legal debate surrounding these technologies and how they are sometimes used in the fight against al qaeda. i want to be clear. in the course of the war in afghanistan and the fight against al qaeda, i think the american people expect us to use advanced technologies. for example, prevent attacks on u.s. forces and remove terrorists from the battlefield. that is what we do. it has saved the lives of men and women in uniform. what has captured the attention of many is a different practice. it identifies specific members of al qaeda and targeting them with legal force, often using aircraft operated by pilots who can be hundreds if not thousands of miles away. this is what i want to focus on today.
a former assistant attorney general of the administration of bush and now harvard professor at their law school, she wrote, "the government needs a way to convey to the public that the decisions of who is being targeted am especially when the target is a u.s. citizen are sound. the government should tell us more about the process by which it reaches its high-value targeting decisions. the more the government tells us about the eyeballs on the issue and the robustness of the process, the more credible the claims will be about the accuracy of its factual determination and soundness of its legal ones. all of this information can be disclosed in some form without endangering critical intelligence." well, president obama agrees. is why i am here today.
i stand as someone who has been involved in national security for years. i have an appreciation for the capabilities of our counterterrorism are fresheners and our relationships with other nations. i will not discuss the details of any specific operations today. i will not divulge sensitive information. lives could be lost. at the same time, we reject the notion that any discussion of these matters is a step on the slippery slope. too often that can be an excuse for saying that they at all, which creates a void that is filled with myths and falsehoods. that can erode our credibility with the american people and the foreign partners. it can undermine the public
understanding and support for our efforts. in contrast, president obama believes that if done carefully and responsibly, we can be more transparent and still ensure our national security. let me say it as simply as i can -- yes, in full accordance with the law and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the united states and save american lives, the united states government inducts targeted strikes against specific al qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely related aircraft often referred to publicly as drones. i'm here today because president obama has instructed us to be more open with the american people about these efforts. broadly speaking, the debate of targeting specific members of al qaeda is centered on legality, the wisdom of using them, and the standard by which they are proved. the remainder of my time, i
would like to address each of these in turn. first, these strikes are illegal. attorney general holder and jay johnson have all adjust this question -- first, the strikes are all legal. attorney general holder andrew johnson have all addressed this question. the authorization for the use of military force was passed by congress after the september 11 attacks. it authorized the president to use all necessary and appropriate or since against those nations, organizations, and individuals responsible for 9/11. there is nothing that restricts the use of military force against all qaeda to afghanistan. as a matter of international law, the united states is in conflict with al qaeda, the
taliban, and associated forces in response to the 9/11 attacks, we may use force consistent with our rights in national self-defense. there is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted or using lethal force against our enemies on the battlefield. second, targeted strikes are ethical. without question, the ability to target specific individuals from hundreds or thousands of miles away raises profound questions. it is useful to consider such strikes against the basic tangibles of the law of war that govern the use of force. targeted strikes forms the principal of necessity. the requirements that the target deftly have military value.
in this conflict, individuals who are part of al qaeda or associated forces are legitimate military targets. we have the authority to target them with lethal force just as we targeted anomie leaders in past conflicts, such as german and japanese commanders during world war ii. targeted strikes, the idea that only military targets can be targeted and civilians are protected from being potentially targeted. with the ability of remotely related aircraft to precisely target a military object to while minimizing collateral damage, one could argue that never before has there been a weapon that allows us to distinguish more effectively between an al qaeda terrorist and an innocent civilians. targeted strikes relates to proportionality.
the notion that collateral damage cannot be expected in relation to the anticipated military advantage. by targeting an individual terrorist or a small number of terrorists is court in its can be adapted to avoid hurting others in the immediate vicinity, it is harder to imagine a tool that will minimize the harm of civilians remote aircraft. it requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering. for these reasons, i suggest that these targeted strikes against al qaeda terrorists are indeed ethical and just. of course, even if a tool is legal and ethical, it does not make it advisable in any circumstance. this brings me to my next point. targeted strikes are wise. remotely piloted aircraft, in particular, can be a wise
choice because of the ability to fly hundreds of miles over the most treacherous terrain, strike their targets with precision, and return to base. it can be a wise choice because of time when windows of opportunity can close quickly and there may only be minutes to act. it can be a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger of u.s. ursa now. --u.s. personnel. they are a wise choice because they reduce the danger to innocent civilians. in addition, impaired to other options, a pilot operating the aircraft remotely with the benefit of technology and the safety of distance, they might have a clear picture of the target and its surroundings, including the presence of
innocent civilians. it is surgical position, that ability with laserlike focus to eliminate the cancerous tumor while limiting damage to those around it. this makes the tool so essential. there is another reason why it can be a wise choice. the strategic consequences that, with the use of force -- that come with the use of force. countries typically do not want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns. large and interest is military deployment risk laying into al qaeda strategy to draw out long and costly wars that inflame anti-american resentment and inspire the next generation of terrorists. in comparison, there is the precision of target strikes. we, as a government, along with
our partners, can do a better job of addressing the mistaken belief among some foreign public that we engage in the strikes actually as if we are unwilling to deploy forces to the dangers faced every day i those people in those regions. there is nothing casual about the extraordinary care that we take in making the decisions to pursue all qaeda terrorists. the links that we go to ensure precision and avoid innocent life. there is no other than decisions that decide whether to use lethal or stew another human being, even a terrorist dedicating to killing american -- there is no harder decision than to decide whether to use lethal methods on another human being, even a terrorist dedicated to killing americans.
this reflects the approach to broader questions using force. in his speech accepting the nobel peace prize, the president said that all countries must adhere to methods that regard the use of force. where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic erest.nt even as they confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, the united states of america must remain a standard bearer in the contaext of war. that is what access different. what makes us different. other nations also use this.
many more are seeking it and more will seek in acquiring it. president obama and those on the security team are mindful that as our nation uses this technology, we are establishing precedents that others may follow. not all of those nations will be nations that share our interests for the premium we put on protecting human life, including innocent civilians. if you want other nations to use the technologies responsibly, we must use them responsibly. if you want others to adhere to a high and rigorous standards of use, we must do so as well. we cannot expect others what we will will not do ourselves. resident obama has demanded -- president obama has demanded that we hold ourselves to the highest standards. this leads me to the final point i want to discuss today.
the rigorous standards and policies of the to which we hold ourselves today when considering ordering strikes against a specific member of al qaeda outside the hot battlefield of afghanistan. what i hope to do is give you a general sense in broad terms of the high bar we require ourselves to meet when making these profound decisions. that includes not only whether a specific member of al qaeda can legally pursued with due course, but also whether he should be. over time, we work to refine and strengthen this process and our standards. we continue to do so. if our counterterrorism professionals suspect a member of al qaeda poses a threat to the united states that warrants legal action, they might raise that individual posing name for consideration. there will be careful review and will be evaluated by the very
most senior officials in our government for a decision. first and foremost, the individual must be a legitimate target under the law. earlier, i described how the use of force against members of al qaeda is authorized under both international and u.s. authorization2001 for the use of military force. that extends to those who are part of al qaeda, taliban, and associated forces. if after a legal review we determine an individual is not a lawful target,e end of discussion. we are a nation of laws. we will always act within the law. the law establishes the outer limits of the authority of which professionals cooperate. if we determine it is lawful to determine -- pursue the
terrorist in question, it does not mean that we should. there are literally thousands of individuals who are part of al qaeda, the taliban, or associated forces. thousands upon thousands. even it were possible, going after all of individuals with lethal force when not be wise or effective use of our resources. result, we need to be strategic. we ask ourselves whether that individual posing activities -- whenvidual's activities -- considering lethal force, we ask whether they pose a threat to u.s. troops. this is critical. it goes to the very essence of why we take this kind of exceptional action. we do not engage in legal action in order to eliminate
every single member of al qaeda in the world. most of the times, as we have done for more than a decade, we rely on cooperation with other countries that are also dedicated to removing these terrorist with their own abilities and within their own laws. we are not seeking vengeance. rather we conduct targeted strikes because they are necessary to mighty gate and actual -- to mitigate, prevent attacks, and save american lives. what we mean when we say significant threats, i'm not referring to hypothetical rats or mere possibilities -- hypothetical threats or mere possibilities.
or perhaps the individual is himself an operative in the middle of training for are planning to carry out attacks against u.s. persons of interest. or perhaps they have skills that are being leveraged in the plan of attack. the purpose of a strike against a particular individual is to stop him before he can carry out his attack and kill innocents. the purpose is to disrupt his plan and end the plot before it comes to fruition. in addition, we only undertake lethal force when we believe that capturing the individual is not feasible. i have heard it suggested that the obama administration somehow prefers killing al qaeda members rather than capturing them. nothing could be further from the truth. it is our preference to capture suspected terrorists where ever and whenever feasible.
this allows us to gather valuable intelligence that we may not have been able to obtain any other way. the members of al qaeda that we and other nations have should have been one of our biggest sources of al qaeda, its plan, and intentions. we often can't prosecute them in federal tortcourts. -- we often can prosecute them in federal courts. a member had significant ties to al qaeda. last year, we learned he would be traveling from yemen to somalia. u.s. forces captured him en route. since 2001, such unilateral captures outside hot battlefield like afghanistan has been exceedingly rare. this is due in two part that many parts of the world is that
our writers have been able to capture and kill individuals themselves. -- our allies have been able to capture and kill individuals themselves. these terrorists are skilled at seeking remote inhospitable terrain. at other times, our forces might have the ability to attend to capture, but only by putting the lives of our personanel at too great a risk. also, capture the subject civilians to risk. in which case, people coerced might be the only remaining option to address of the threat, prevent an attack, and save lives. when considering lethal force, we are mindful that there are important checks on our ability to act in foreign territories. we do not use force whenever we want, wherever we want.
international legal principles impose constraints. the united states of america respects national sovereignty and international law. those are some of the questions we consider and the high standards we strive to meet. in the end, we make a decision about whether an individual warrants being pursued in this matter. we consider all the information available to us carefully and was possibly. we review the intelligence and draw on the full range of our capabilities. we do it sound intelligence demands -- we challenge it, question it, including any consumptions on which it might be based. we may ask intelligence community to go back and collect additional information or refine its analysis so a more informed decision can be made.
we look to agencies across our national security team. we ask for them and encourage them. we discuss. we debate. we disagree. we consider advantages and disadvantages of taking action. we consider the costs of inaction and whether a decision not to carry out a strike could allow a terrorist attack to proceed and potentially kill innocents. nor do we limit ourselves to consideration. we look at the implications of any action and the effect of any inaction it might have on other countries. we do not make a decision and never revisit it again. quite the opposite. we refresh intelligence and continue to consider whether lethal force is still warranted. in some cases, such as senior al qaeda leaders who are directing attacks against the united states, that meets our standards
to take action. indeed, there have been numerous occasions where after review, we have concluded that lethal force would not justify. as president obama counterterrorism advisor, it is important that the mirkin people know that these efforts are overseen with extraordinary care and thoughtfulness. -- that the american people know that these efforts are overseen with extraordinary care and thoughtfulness. how you thought through the consequences? is this going to help protect our country from further attacks? will this save lives? our commitments to upholding the ethics continues even after we decide to pursue a specific
terrorist in this way. we only authorized a particular operation against a specific individual it we have a high degree of confidence that the individual is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing. it is a very high bar. of course, how we identify an individual naturally involves intelligence methods which i cannot discuss. our intelligence community has multiple ways to determine with a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the al qaeda terrorist we are seeking. in addition, we only authorize a strike if we have a high degree of confidence that innocent civilians will not be injured or killed except in the rarest of circumstances. the unprecedented advances that we have made in technology provide us a greater proximity to target for a longer period of time and allow us to understand
what is happening in real time, on the ground, in ways that were previously not understandable. we can make more informed decisions. i can tell you today that there have been indeed occasions where we have decided against conducting a strike in order to avoid injury or death of innocent civilians. this reflects our commitment to doing everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties. even if that means having to come back another day to take out a terrorist as we have done previously. i would note that the standard for identifying a target and avoiding the loss of innocencts exceed what is required as a matter of international law. that is another example of the high standard to which we hold ourselves. our commitment to ensuring accuracy and effectiveness continues even after a strike. in the wake of a strike, we
harness the full range of our intelligence capabilities to assess whether the mission in fact achieved its objective. we try to determine whether there was any collateral damage, including civilian deaths. there is no such thing as a perfect weapon. a remotely elegant aircraft is no exception. as the president and others have acknowledged, there have been instances where and despite the extraordinary for cautions taken, civilians have been accidentally killed or worse, accidentally injured. it is exceedingly rare, but it has happened. when it happens, it pains us. we regret it deeply. when it happens, we take it very, very seriously. we go back and review our actions. we examine our practices.
we refine our efforts so that we are doing everything in our power to prevent the loss of innocent life. this is a reflection of our values as americans. ensuring that ethics of the strikes also include regularly informing appropriate members of congress and the committees who have oversight of our programs. our programs, including the use of lethal force, has drawn more effective over time because of congressional oversight and our ongoing dialogue with members and staff. this is the seriousness and extraordinary care that president obama and those of us on the national security team bring to these questions whether to pursue lethal force to get the terrorists who are plotting to attack our country. when that person is a u.s. citizen, we ask ourselves questions. eric holder has described the legal authority that allows us
to use legal force against an american citizen who is a senior operational leader of al qaeda. he has discussed the euro review, including all -- the thorough review that has been undertaken by the u.s. government to determine whether the individual poses a threat. to recap, the standards that i have described today or which we have strengthened over time reflect our commitment to ensuring the individual is a legitimate target under the law , determining whether he poses a threat to u.s. interest, determining whether the capture is feasible, our ability to act unilaterally in foreign territory, having a high degree of confidence both in the identity of the target and making sure innocents will not be harmed, and engaging in additional review. going forward, we continue to
strengthen and refine the standards. as they do, we look to institutionalize our approach more formally so that the high standards we set for ourselves into her over time -- ednndure o ver time. as the president said, america must be the bearer of standards. we need to have greater conspiracy. i have made a sincere effort to address the main question that citizens and scholars have raised regarding the use of targeted lethal force against al qaeda. i suspect that there are those who feel that we have not been transparent enough. i suspect there are those both inside and outside of government who feel that i am perhaps too open. both groups feel a little bit dissatisfied. again, there are some lines that we simply cannot cross.
our national security demands secrecy. that we are a democracy. the people are sovereign. they are stronger and more sustainable when the american people understand and support them. they are weaker and less sustainable when the american people do not. as a result of my remarks today, i hope the american people have a better understanding of this critical tool, why we use it, what we do, how careful we are when we use it, and my it is essential to protect our country and citizens. i would like to close on a personal note. i know that many people, the issue of targeted strikes raises profound and moral questions. it forces us to confront deeply held personal beliefs in our values as a nation. if anyone in government tells you they have not struggled with this, then they have not spent much time thinking about it.
i know i have. i will continue to struggle with it as long as i remain in counterterrorism. i'm certain of one thing -- we are at war. we are at war with a terrorist organization called al qaeda that has brutally murdered thousands of americans. men, women, and children, and thousands of other innocent people around the world. in recent years, with help of targeted strikes, we have have turned al qaeda into a shadow of what it once was. they are on the road to destruction. until that finally happens, however, are still terrorists in hard to reach places that are actively planning attacks against us. if given the chance, they would gladly strike again and kill more of our citizens. the president has a constitutional and solemn obligation to do everything in his power to protect the safety and security of the american people. yes, war is hell.
it is awful. it is human beings killing other human beings. that is why we despise war. that is why we want this war with al qaeda to be over as soon as possible and not a moment longer. over time, as our partners grow stronger, i do hope that the united states to have to rely less on lethal force it to keep our country safe. until that happens, as president obama said five years ago, if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will. it is an unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives, we are sometimes oblige to take lives. the lives of terrorists that seek to murder our fellow citizens. i'm behalf of resident obama and the administration, i'm here to say to the american people that we will -- on behalf of resident
obama and the administration, i'm here to say to the american people that we will adhere to the laws and stay true to the values that define us as americans. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you, mr. brennan. it is almost 1 p.m. i hope you can stay a few minutes to take questions. then we will turn it over to the audience for questions. please no statements. asked questions. first, the call for greater transparency is certainly appreciated by me. i think that the clearer we can make policies and the better we can explain them and the more debate we can have in the public square about them, the more they will be understood and they will persuade the would-be suicide bombers about to step
on a vest that there is a better answer. we have to win the argument in the end with the next generation and not just take out those who cannot be rehabilitated and this generation. honoredant to say havowow we are that you would make a speech at the woodrow wilson center. the fact that the u.s. makes targeted strikes using drones has always been something that i have danced around because i knew and had not been officially acknowledged by the government. i was one of the members of august briefed on this program. i have seen how we do these things. i will not comment on specific operations or areas of the world, but i do think it is important that our government has acknowledged and set out as carefully as possible reasons why we do it. i want to commend you, eric holder, and j johnson for
carefully laying out the legal framework and we will continue to debate these issues and see what value we can add on a non- artisan basis to helping articulate even more clearly the reasons why war is hell and why there is no decision more consequential than deciding to use legal force. thank you for making those remarks here. i question is this -- one thing i do not think you have mentioned that is enormously important was the rise of islamist parties. they had been elected in tunisia, egypt, and probably will be elected in turkey and other countries. do you think that having islam is inside the tent in a helpscal smear a-- sphere
diminish the threat of outside groups like al qaeda? >> hopefully political pluralism is breaking out in the middle east. countries will find expressions with political parties. we are strong advocates of using the political system, the laws, to be able to express their individual groups within different countries. rather than finding expression through violent extremism, these groups have the opportunity as they never had before in countries like tunisia and in egypt, yemen and other places, where they can participate meaningfully within a system. this will take some time for the system to mature sufficiently so that there can be a very robust system there. certainly, those individuals who are associated with parties that have a religious basis, they can have the opportunity in
that system. >> my second question, you mentioned yemen. that has been part of the broader portfolio. i know you made many trips there. you are a key architect to the deal to get them to agree -- to , leave themmunity country, and restructure government. do you think a yemen type solution could work in syria? any possibility of getting the bashar family out of syria and distracting a new government there? >> into this countries in the middle east are facing different types of circumstances.
they have unique histories. yemen was fortunate. they have a degree of political terrorism there. it allowed certain political institutions to -- they do have pluralismof political lures hi l there. it has allowed certain political institutions to develop. this is something that communities need to come together. i would like to see something that can transition peacefully. the sooner and can be done -- >> thank you very much. ms. identify yourselves. -- please identify yourselves. >> hi.
my name is tara. i'm a scholar here. you talked about the struggle you have in the process of the targeted strikes. general cartwright talk to me about the question of surrender that is not really an option when you talk about drones. can you talk about the issues that you find the most troubling when you think about the strikes? >> as i said, one of the considerations that they go through is that visibility -- be stability of capture. we would prefer to capture these individuals. working with local governments, what we would like to do is provide the intelligence of they can get the individual and it does not have to be u.s. forces on the ground in certain areas. if it does not feasible because it is too risky or the government does not have the ability to do it do it, we make the determination of whether not the significance of the that the person poses requires us to take
action so that we can mine the gate -- mitigate. if allowed to continue, it could result in attacks in yemen against the embassy. what we always want to do is look at whether or not there is an option to get this person and bring them to justice somehow for intelligence collection purposes, as well as to try them for their crimes. >> thank you. the man in the green shirt right here. >> robert from the well since center from the university of missouri. thank you for your comments. li and nigeriama seem to suggest we have been less successful in pursuing al qaeda. can you talk about your efforts in west africa?
and also emphasize the development -- economic development? >> you raised in two important points. one, what are we doing in of confronting the terrorist attacks in maili and nigeria? also, assistance for these countries so they can build institutions needed for people. nigeria is a dangerous place right now. there is an organization that has links with al qaeda. they have an offshoot that is focused on u.s. or western interests. there is a domestic challenge that they posed to nigeria. there has been struggle within nigeria. there are tensions between the christian and muslim communities. we are trying to work with the nigerian government to try to give them the capabilities they need to confront the terrorist
threats. there is also the issue of building those little institutions within nigeria so they can deal at this -- with this and also address the needs that are fueling some of these fires of extremism. the recentuse of coup, we have been trying to work with other countries to address the growing phenomenon. there is a unique organization because there is a criminal aspect to it. they kidnap individuals and there is outrage when they pay huge sums to al qaeda. it feeds their activities. with the coup and the activity up in the north, that is such a large expensive area, that also requires talent seeing those and
adjusting the near-term threats with al qaeda and also trying to get the government in mali the ability to build up those institutions and address development needs. it is a complicated area. i work closely with my colleagues and others in the region about how they might -- there might be ways to address some of these broader on african issues with the kidnappings and the piracy and the criminal activities and terrorist attacks. it is concerning and a number of parts in the continent. >> back there in the middle. >> i can take another 10 minutes. >> i'm from the state department. how can we ensure that agency actors when they are taking
action are held to appropriate standards and ethics when serving as prosecutors and judges and that is held to the same standards as regards to the evidence? >> we are not carrying out these actions to retaliate for past transgressions. we are not a court. we are not trying to do determine who is innocent and carry out things in retaliation. we try to prevent the loss of lives through terrorist attacks . we see a threat developing, we follow it carefully, we identified the individuals who are responsible for allowing that to go forward, and we make a determination about whether or not we have the solid intelligence based. we have standards.
the standards have been brought forward. we evaluate that. there are meetings that number of us are involved in on an ongoing basis. we scrutinize intelligence and determine whether or not we have a degree of confidence that that person is indeed involved in carrying out this plan to kill americans. if it reaches that level, we look at the other standards that i talked about in terms of invisibility -- and feasibility --whether it is feasible to capture them. if we did not have to take these actions and we had confidence that there were be no attacks, i think everyone would be pleased. we only decide to take that action if there is no other option available and the option of capture is not possible or if
we cannot do something and the only option is to take the individual off the battlefield. we will do it in a way that gives us confidence that we are not going to in fact inflict additional collateral damage. it is a very rigorous standard that we go through. >> thank you. in the far back. yes, you. >> i was wondering -- >> could identify yourself. >> my name is john. >can you tell us the percentage of times it has been -- the proposals to target an individual has been denied? also the strikes that identify people engage is suspicious activities? >> i will not go into how many
times of institutions -- of instances. but i can tell you that there have been numerous times where individuals that were put forward for consideration for this type of action was refined. i was speaking here is specifically about targeted strikes against individuals that were involved. everything we do that is carried out against al qaeda is carried out consistently the rule of law. we do it with a similar rigor. there are various ways we can
ensure that we are taking the actions that we need to to prevent terrorist attacks. that is evil purpose. what ever action we use, the toll used is to protect lives. i can give you the type of laserlike precision that can excise that terrorist or that threat in a manner that will not damage the surrounding tissue. when that tumor becomes legal, -- legal, that is when we take action. thal, that is when we take action.
>> the woman in the back. please identify yourself. >> [indiscernible] they repeatedly protested to the drone strikes.ut you mentioned that you can be unwilling to -- an [indiscernib] >> some of those countries we are involved in detailed discussions about the appropriate tools to bring to bear. in the case of have to stand, -- in the case of pakistan, there are ongoing discussions on how best to address the terrorist threat that emanates rum that area. i will point out that many pakistanis have been killed by the malignant tumor that is
within pakistan. many brave pakistanis have given their lives against the terrorist and militant organizations. we are committed to working very closely on an ongoing basis at the pakistani government, which includes the various components, intelligence security, and various departments and agencies in order to help them address the terrorist threats and also so that they can help us to make sure that pakistan and that area are never again used for the launching pad for attacks on the united states. >> thank you. usede conclude that mighke
to use the analogy of lines on the football field. he said that we need them to get chalk on their cleats. go up right to the line in carrying out what are approved policies are of the united states. if you think about it that way, it is important to have policies that are transparent that those who are carrying out and understand the mission know where the lines are. if you do not know where the lines are, some people will be risk averse. others will commit excesses. we have seen those in the past and they are black eyes on our country. john brennan came here to us from the white house aand laid out in great detail whast tt the
rules are for the use of drones in certain operations, targeted operations. the debate will continue. no question that the people listening and have different points of view. we know that one woman did during his remarks. that is why the wilson center is here. it offers a plot harm free of spin and partisan rhetoric to debate these -- it offers a platform free of spin and partisan rhetoric to debate these issues. thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute] >> you can watch more of john brennan and president obama
nominee to be the next cia director on at the c-span archives. visit c-span.org/videolibrary. >> student cam video messages with their message to the president are now due. at them in by this friday for your chance at the grand prize of fact dollars. or is $50,000 total grand prizes. -- for the grand prize of $5,000. there is a total of $50,000 a grand prizes. >> the inaugural parade will take place on president dana avenue after president obama is sworn -- will take place on pennsylvania avenue after president obama is sworn in. ♪